by the Rev. Peter J. Stimpson
QUESTION: The divorce rate scares me. My wife and I have been married for 10 years, but all our friends are splitting up. What are some of the warning signs of a marriage in trouble?
ANSWER: Your question is good, but your focus is bad. Let’s not only look at what is wrong, but also at what to do to make it right, as “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Imagine that you have only given lip service to the advice that has been given, a troubled marriage as well as the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Now, being married for 10 years, you begin to sense that your marriage is in trouble. Wanting more than an intuitive sense that things may be going awry, what are some of the warning signs for which you might look?
1. BEING TOO INDEPENDENT: It’s boring being married to Superman. He doesn’t need anyone. As no man is an island, learn to love yourself enough to ask for help.
2. BEING SELFISH: Love is not competition. If you do not give, then you will not receive. Unless you feed the emotional needs of your spouse, he or she will starve and be unwilling to feed you.
3. BEING JEALOUS: Love is a quality, not a quantity. The time given by your spouse to your children, parents, and friends does not decrease what you get; it only increases his or her ability to love you all the more.
4. BEING VENGEFUL: As your goal is intimacy instead of victory, holding grudges or throwing a litany of past mistakes at your spouse only pushes them away from you. Giving them another chance to grow gives you another chance to be loved.
5. BEING SECRETIVE: The goal is to be one, not two. Not sharing your worries and whereabouts erodes trust. Separating income and bills into “his” and “her” piles leads to separate lives.
6. NOT TALKING: Being too busy to talk means a growing chasm filled with alienation and loneliness. Giving a little time to each other now will save you from spending a lot of time and money later with a divorce lawyer.
7. NOT CHOOSING: Trying to simultaneously please your mother and your spouse gets you stuck in the middle. Put your spouse first, and they will put you first.
8. NOT FLEXIBLE: Rigidly forcing the “same old, same old” down your spouse’s throat may win the battle, but you will lose the war. Loosen up, and realize that there are two sides to any argument, and that surprisingly you may just be wrong!
9. NOT ROMANTIC: When was the last time that you gave your spouse flowers, took them out to dinner, or told them that you love them? Hold hands, and give each other a hug and kiss. A little effort will give you a big result!
10. NOT PRAYING: The old saying “the family that prays together stays together” points to our need for spiritual insight in a world blinded by secularism. Go to church or synagogue, not because you have to, but because it offers you support both personally and as a couple.
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